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IAC Competition FAQ

Following is a first cut at a list of frequently asked questions about IAC competition aerobatics. This list is still incomplete, and the answers are just opinion - no warranty express or implied is made on the accuracy of the information contained herein (our lawyers made us say that!).

If you have any questions about competition aerobatics that you'd like to see on the list, email
Brett Goldsmith to get them on.

- How can I find out about IAC competitions in my area?
I can only speak to my area, California. There are usually 5 contests in California, and they are spread all over the state. The farthest south is at Borrego Springs, east of San Diego, and farthest north is in Willows, which is a little north of Sacramento. Sport Aerobatics, the official IAC magazine, publishes a schedule of contests in the back of every issue. There is also a list of contests on the IAC National's Calendar.

- Am I good enough to enter a contest?
Don't worry about how "good" you think you may or may not be. Everyone had to start somewhere, most at the bottom! The important consideration is to be safe, and to choose a category that is appropriate to your skill level. If in doubt, be conservative and go for the lower category. Probably the best way to determine this is to have an experienced competitor watch you fly and make an assessment. IAC also has an Achievement Award program (commonly referred to as "Smooth Patches") that recognizes certain levels of competency outside the competition environment.

- How should I prepare for my first contest?
Practice! You should definitely be able to get through your category's sequence safely and competently. One of the best things a new person can do is to get a Smooth patch for the category they intend to fly.

- How do I enter a contest?
Just show up on the first day, usually a Thursday, and you'll be greeted by a contest official. More than likely, as a first time competitor, you will be assigned a "buddy" to help you through everything. First thing to do it get "teched" - have your aircraft go through a technical inspection. The tech inspector will fill out a checklist and sign it, which you will need for registration. After registration, most people sign up for a practice flight in the box.

- What should I bring?
I recommend making a "contest binder" for your airplane, that has copies of all your logbooks and "AROW" items. Makes it easier for the tech inspector, and you don't want to lose that stuff!! Other than that, just bring your regular flying clothes, and some khakis or whatever for the banquet (I personally wear nice jeans). It also depends on how much room you have in your baggage compartment. A very good checklist can be found on the IAC National's website at http://acro.harvard.edu/IAC/contest_docs.html. At the California contests, you will always need a hat, preferably a big floppy one to keep the sun out. A swimsuit and some sunscreen is also advisable. I also carry a small tool kit and some screws, because you never know when you may need that stuff.

- Can a rental airplane be flown in a contest?
The short answer is YES! As long as the proper signoffs are in hand, rentals are a great way to get into competition right away. Probably the biggest drawback there is the cost associated with ferrying the airplane to and from the contest. Often, a flight school will send one of their aircraft to a contest, and make it available for pilots to rent. It is also possible for a few people to get together on their own and share the ferry costs. Just make sure all the paperwork is in order, and that the aircraft owner(s) have signed the entry form. An entry blank and complete pre-registration information can be found at http://acro.harvard.edu/IAC/pre_reg_contest.html.

- As a "newbie", will I be accepted into the fold?
New people are welcomed with open arms. The key is involvement, and the good thing about contests is that there is never a shortage of volunteer jobs to do! Having an affiliation with a Chapter helps quite a bit when you first start out.

- Do people bring significant others?
Absolutely. All manner of girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, dogs, etc. can be found! Usually we encourage these people to volunteer for something, as that is the best way to learn about what is going on and participate.

- How do I get started in competition aerobatics?
The first step is to join the IAC. IAC membership has many benefits, including the excellent magazine Sport Aerobatics, where you'll find many articles, letters, and schedules on when and where contests and judges schools are held.

- Do I need to be an IAC member?
IAC membership is required to participate in IAC sanctioned competitions. While not required, membership in a nearby Chapter is also a great way to get to know other aerobatic pilots in your area, and to get more involved. In California, each of the 5 Chapters sponsor a contest.

- I have never done acro, how do I get started?
The best thing to do in the beginning is to get a ride in an two-seat aerobatic aircraft. From there, you'll probably want to spend some time in a tailwheel airplane, as most (but not all) competition aircraft are tailwheel. Most flight schools have different levels of trainers, which your instructor can help you choose which one to start in based on your experience. A very typical path is starting in a 7ECA Citabria, progress to a Super Decathlon, then to a Pitts S2B, then on to a single seat Pitts or other high performance aircraft.

- Which schools teach acro to competition standards?
The IAC also publishes a directory of aerobatic flight schools, which can be ordered from the magazine. Probably the best way to find out which are better is to ask around at the local Chapter, or even ask Chapter members that are also CFIs to teach you. Competition aerobatics are different from your typical "Sunday afternoon looping". There are pretty well-defined rules and criteria that competition pilots must adhere to, and it really helps to learn these methods from the beginning.

- Are competitions organized by aircraft class, or skill?
Generally, the competition categories are organized by difficulty, and along with that comes aircraft class. You probably will never see a clipped-wing Cub in Advanced or Unlimited! But, a Cub has won the Sportsman category at Nationals the last couple of years.

- Do I need to go to Judges school first?
Attendance at an IAC Judge's School is not required for competition pilots, but is a great way to learn what the judges will be looking for. We are always in need of judges, and most competition pilots judge in the other categories.

- Is acro / competition safe?
In the 30 or so years of IAC competition, there has not been a single fatality at an officially sanctioned contest. This impeccable safety record is envied by all sorts of aviation groups, including the military. This can be attributed to the enormous amount of attention that is placed on safety.

More coming soon!
Find a quick review of the 5 California contests here.

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Last updated: Tue 10/21/2003 20:30 PDT

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